story by Lindsay Humphrey Six years ago, McKenna Rud swung her leg over a 3-year-old gelding named Laredo and he’s been her main mount ever […]
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Meet the Member Hailey Thompson
story by Lily Landreth
Hailey Thompson decided she wouldn’t go to Las Vegas to witness the WNFR or Junior World Finals until she was a contestant there. In January, the 14-year-old from Columbia, Mississippi, did just that, winning the senior barrel racing at the KKRFV qualifier held in Tunica, Mississippi, at the Battle for the Saddle. “I was at the bottom of the drag, so the dirt was really deep. At the first barrel I tripped up and went really wide, and I knew my run wouldn’t be as fast as it could’ve been, so I tried to go really fast after that,” Hailey recalls. “I was really surprised by my time—it was a 14.8.”
The first of her family to rodeo or ride horses, Hailey went to a summer pony camp at 4 and came home with an incurable love of horses. She started rodeoing about seven years later. “I’ve always wanted to go to the NFR when I’m older, and my mom saw something about the Junior NFR and I told her I wanted to try to qualify. She did some research on it and found out about the qualifiers,” Hailey explains. Her winning streak this season also qualified her for the Junior American when she ran at the Holiday Classic Barrel Race in Jackson, Mississippi.
“It feels good to win and succeed in doing something, so putting in all the hard work and training is really satisfying,” says Hailey. She works with her horses on barrels when they need tuning up, otherwise she exercises them by trail riding or riding with friends. She also competes in the Mississippi Junior High Rodeo Association and did pole bending, breakaway roping, ribbon roping, and goat tying, but decided to focus primarily on barrels. “It just feels more natural, and it doesn’t require a lot of different movements when you’re on the right horse. The other events you have to be really coordinated for, and I’m not,” she says with a laugh.
Hailey’s main barrel horse is a 10-year-old mare named Breeze. “She’s really fun to be around and I’m blessed to have her. I’ve been riding her for three years and done a lot of training on her. She didn’t know poles and was just started on barrels when I got her.” Hailey is also training a 5-year-old mare, Hope, for barrels, and taking her to junior high rodeos to season her. Hailey especially looks up to Randy Dubose, who has helped her with training her horses. “He’s helped me a lot with barrel racing and just my riding in general. He’s won a lot of barrel races around here and is an excellent rider.”
She is also grateful for her parents, Michelle and Jeff Thompson, and her Mimi and Papa, Janice and Kenneth Thompson, for traveling with her. Hailey’s dad works off shore and came home to travel with them to the Junior American in Fort Worth. “One of my favorite pens is in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s a smaller arena and my horse likes smaller arenas. We’re usually there for All American Youth Barrel Races and MEGA barrel races,” says Hailey. She’s also excited to be part of Team East for the 2020 Youth World Barrel Racing Challenge, whose finals are in June.
An eighth-grade student at Baxterville School, Hailey enjoys math and science, along with cheerleading, archery, and playing basketball. Jet skiing in the summertime and baking her favorite sugar cookies also help her pass the time between barrel races. “I’d like to eventually qualify for the NFR, and I’d like to train and sell horses,” she finishes. “I also want to make it to the short go at the Junior American and Junior NFR.”